By Kris Voakes
New to a league he calls the toughest he’s ever played in, it is fair to say that Carlos Tevez has hit the ground running. Despite the intensity of Serie A coming as a shock to him, the Argentine has adapted so quickly that his Juventus coach Antonio Conte has had to defend claims that the Italian champions have become a one-man side centred on the ability of the former Manchester City man.
However, his fantastic early-season form with the Bianconeri has yet to have any noticeable effect on Alejandro Sabella, with the Argentina national coach continuing to overlook a player once considered a central figure in the Albiceleste’s future.
Over the years, Tevez has had clear issues with the very concept of international football, and raised the idea of early retirement from the national team in late 2009.
“I’m a little tired out by all this football,” he told Marca. “I want to start enjoying being with my family more.
"I have really wanted to stop and have a bit of calm. I’ve gained a lot from the world of football, but I think that has saturated me a lot.
“There’s a lot of bad blood in Argentina and with the national side I think, ‘Why bother? If we win or lose, it’s always the same.'”
While many predicted that the World Cup in South Africa the following month would mark the end of his run with Argentina, Tevez continued to make himself available even after the quarter-final defeat to Germany. Yet the new season had not even begun when he was throwing doubts into people’s minds again, admitting once more that the travelling involved was too much for him.
|'THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO ARGENTINA'
I think Tevez’s exclusion is the best thing that could have happened to our national team. It is not because of good or bad performances, it is more that Sabella has taken the decision with the dressing room in mind.
Tevez only played in the 2011 Copa America because the media, fans and even some members of the government were calling for him to be included. He turned up 6kg overweight and ended up missing the key penalty against Uruguay.
He has said in the past that his retirement from international football was near, and after a friendly against Ireland in August 2010 he said travelling back and forth for the Albiceleste is tiring.
While he clearly wants to get back into the frame and is trying to play nice in order to help his case, at the same time he also seems resigned to his fate.- Sebastian Garcia | Goal Argentina
Not since his crucial penalty miss in the quarter-final against Uruguay has Tevez worn his national team’s colours, and the exile has coincided with better form on the pitch for the two-time World Cup winners under Sabella. Unlike in the run-up to the 2010 finals, there is a real feeling that this tournament could bring the very best out of the players that have been representing their country of late.
But still there is a great push behind Tevez, with many in Argentina continuing to petition for his return even after the player himself gave up on international football for good in the summer.
"It's over," he said of his Argentina career. "I have nothing more to add. I have said what I feel and that's the end of the matter. If I say anything else then it would seem as if I'm asking for a recall."
Yet while he talks like a man who has had enough, his actions have not entirely been in sync. When he set up a new Twitter account, allies in the media were among the first accounts he followed, with team-mates and friends largely coming later. Was this just Tevez keeping up with the Argentine news, or was it a political step as part of a campaign to regain his national place in time for the World Cup?
"There comes a moment where you get tired, you get tired of football,” he added in the summer. “I wanted to leave the game but then Juventus, one of the biggest clubs in Europe, arrived. I had always said that I would retire at the age of 28 and I was close to retiring after the row with Roberto Mancini.”
So, with his issues with the ex-Manchester City boss having been overcome to the betterment of his career, the Tevez question keeps being asked of Sabella. There is some suggestion that whatever friction the ex-Boca Juniors star once brought with him might not be an issue now that he is in a better place mentally thanks to his club form.
“It is not right to talk about players that are not here,” the coach told a press conference in September.
“But I can say that we always have one eye on our players.
“Although the quality of our attackers is already very high, if his level remains this high for Juventus, it will be difficult to leave him in Turin.”
For now, Tevez remains on the outside looking in. But if his form for Juve continues to make headlines in Italy, how long will Sabella be able to ignore the increase in public opinion and media pressure by keeping the striker on the sidelines?
Even with his international career supposedly over, Tevez continues to give the Argentina coach something to think about.